|Shorin Ryu Karate|
|OKCD with O'Sensei|
Shorin Ryu Karatedo
Karatedo originated in China during the 5th century A.D. with an Indian man's visit to the Shaolin Monastery. The visitor, known as Bodhidarma (Chinese) or Dharuma (Japanese), taught the Shaolin monks a combination of ch'an meditation (Zen in Japanese), breathing, and fighting techniques. This fighting system was further developed by the monks and called Shaolin Temple Boxing. A clear connection between this ancient form and our own style, Shobayashi Shorin Ryu, is revealed through a simple linguistic analysis. Shaolin and Shorin are actually phonetic interpretations of the characters which mean "small forest". The Japanese pronunciation for the same characters is sho bayashi. Thus, Shorin Ryu karate is directly related to Shaolin Temple Boxing.
It took a long time, however, for this practice to expand from its place of origin. The Chinese first demonstrated their martial art in Okinawa during the 14th century, when the two countries were involved in heavy trade, but it was not until the 18th century that the art really began to spread. It was at this time that Kusanku, the Chinese military official, came to Okinawa. He allegedly gave a demonstration in 1761, which included punching, jumping, kicking, and blocking techniques and subsequently began teaching chuan fa (fist way) during his visits to Okinawa. Kusanku therefore played a major role in the expansion of this martial art.
Other important figures in the evolution of karatedo are Peichin Takahara and Tode Sakugawa. An Okinawan renowned in the indigenous art of tode, Monk Takahara was the first to explain the meaning of the word "do" as it applied to karate. He cited three aspects of do: igo, the way or spiritual aspect; ho, the self-defense application; and katsu, the life- giving or practice and understanding of the physical techniques. Tode Sakugawa, who had studied with both Takahara and Kusanku, combined the teachings of the two instructors to form a blend of chuan fa and tode called karatedo (Chinese hand way). The name of our system has thus evolved.
Some of the more prominent students of Bushi Matsumura include Yatsutsune "Ankoh" Itoso (1830-1915), Chotoku Kyan (1870-1944), and Choki Motobu (1871-1944). Little is known about Motobu, except that he was famous for numerous fights and brawls and was the first karate practitioner to defeat a Western boxer. He also instructed some of the most renowned martial artists, although he did not propagate a school of his own. Itosu, known for his great strength and agility, introduced karatedo into the public school system. Here he broke down the complicated Kusanku kata into five shorter forms called Pinan.
Itosu's contemporary, Kanryo Higashionna (1845-1915), influenced Shorin Ryu in yet another way. After spending twenty years in China, Higashionna returned to Okinawa and began teaching a soft or internal style of martial art called Naha-te or Higashionna-ha. This system taught kicking techniques. Named Goju (hard, soft) Ryu by Higashionna's student Chojun Miyagi, this system became the other primary influence of Okinawan karate styles. Two of the Goju kata - Sanchin and Seiunchin - have been incorporated into Shobayashi Shorin Ryu by Shimabukuro Eizo O'Sensei (1925- ).
Although Shimabukuro O'Sensei studied under Myagi before taking up Shorin Ryu, it was Chotoku Kyan who had the greatest impact upon him. Kyan studied under both Itosu and Matsumura and taught, among others, Choshon Chibana, Shoshin Nagamine, Tatsuo Shimabukuro, and Eizo Shimabukuro. Chibana (1887-1969) headed Kobayshi Ryu, Nagamine (1907-1997) headed Matsubayashi Ryu, and Tatsuo Shimabukuro founded his own system called Isshin Ryu. Kobayashi Ryu is essentially the same as Shobayashi, while Matsubayashi Ryu is slightly different and Isshin Ryu uses the same kata as Shobayashi Ryu with some changes in technique. Yet despite these variations, the people who headed the three styles all share a common bond. Instructed by the master Kyan, they are each a reflection of their sensei's greatness (Shimabukuro O'Sensei says that the usage of the descriptions of Matsubayashi, Kobayashi and Shobayashi are used in the United States and not in Okinawa).
Perhaps the clearest evidence of Kyan's immeasurable skill is exemplified by our own grand master Shimabukuro Eizo O'Sensei. As Kyan Sensei's top student, Shimabukuro O'Sensei was left in charge of the Shobayashi Shorin Ryu system at the time of Kyan's death.
Eizo Shimabukuro Hanshi
As Kyan Sensei's top student, Shimabukuro O'Sensei, born in the village of Gushikawa on April 19, 1925, was left in charge of the Shobayashi Shorin Ryu system at the time of Kyan's death. Having received the tenth dan red belt at the age of thirty-four in 1959, Shimabukuro O'Sensei holds the distinction of being the youngest person to ever achieve such an honor. His 10th dan was awarded by Kanken Toyama Sensei and his certificate is No. 25. Toyama Sensei also made him the Chairman of the Okinawan branch of the All Japan Karatedo League. The Japanese government gave Toyama Sensei the title of "Master Instructor" and the authority to award 10th dans in any system of Okinawan or Japanese karatedo. Shimabukuro O'Sensei is currently the head of the Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karatedo International Association (OSKIA) League (In 1994, Shimabukuro O'Sensei changed the association name on his certificates to indicate "OSKIA" instead of the All Japan Karatedo League.). O’Sensei was recently honored with a Judan (10th Dan) certificate from the Rengokai Association on Okinawa. There are only five people on Okinawa (including O’Sensei) who hold that rank.
Shimabukuro O'Sensei studied Kobujustu (ancient weaponry) under Shinken Taira and incorporated it into our karate system. Shimabukuro Sensei notes that his major instructors were Chotokan Kyan Sensei (1937), Chojun Miyagi Sensei (1938), Choki Motobu Sensei (1943), Zenryo Shimabukuro Sensei (1955) and his brother Tatsuo Shimabukkuro Sensei.
In May of 1948, Shimabukuro O'Sensei opened his first dojo. This was the beginning of, what came to be, over 50 years of continuously teaching traditional karate. For 20 years the U.S. Marine Corp contracted Shimabukuro O'Sensei to teach their troops at several different dojo. To date, Grand Master Shimabukuro estimates he has personally trained as many as 35,000 troops including Army and Air Force
For all he has contributed to karatedo, he continues to aid in its growth and development by sharing his knowledge with other followers of the art. Eizo Shimabukuro O'Sensei has taught hundreds of students, recording each one's name in a book that he takes on all of his tours. Thus, our history is recorded and the spirit of karate-do lives on.
Shorin Ryu Karate-Do Comes to the United States
Herbert Wong Kyoshi began studying with O'Sensei in the early 60's. At that time, he had already earned his Nidan from Walter Todd Shibucho in Kanken Toyama's Shudokan Karatedo and had been competing nationally and internationally (along with substantial backgrounds in kung fu, judo, and aikido, as well). Kanken Toyama had written a letter of introduction to Choshin Chibana for Wong Kyoshi to study with him in Okinawa; however, because of the slowness of international mail by boat at the time, he had personally selected O'Sensei Shimabukuro's Moromi Headquarters Dojo instead based upon his observation of the way he taught and the quality of students practicing with him.
O'Sensei had many famous student's that he trained. The famous Joe Lewis trained with O'Sensei in 1964-65. Herbert Wong Kyoshi was there when Mr. Lewis first signed up with O'Sensei, and he was on the board of examiners along with O'Sensei when Mr. Lewis tested for his green belt (along with O'Sensei and others) in 1964. Wong Sensei was also on Mr. Lewis' examination board for his brown and his black belts, as well.
Wong Kyoshi also noted that O'Sensei had his 10th Dan and Shibucho issued by Kanken Toyama. O'Sensei's Shibucho Certificate in Okinawa for the All Japan Karate-Do International League from Kanken Toyama was #25, dated 1959, and the Shibucho Certificate to Mr. Walter Todd for the United States All Japan Karate-Do International League from Kanken Toyama was #26, dated 1960.
Wong Kyoshi may be one of O'Sensei's longest, continuous student in studying and teaching his karate-do. His last promotion by examination by O'Sensei to 7th Dan (along with his Shihan certification) was awarded over 20 years ago. In 2005, O'Sensei awarded Wong Kyoshi his 8th Dan.
Prior to Wong Kyoshi leaving Okinawa in 1965, O'Sensei had asked that he help systematize his training system and help him write a book about Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do. When he returned to the U.S. in 1965, he was unable to get any publisher interested in a manuscript about Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do. Japanese karate (like Mas Oyama, Nishiyama, Nakayama, Yamaguchi, etc.) was "in" at the time (and none of the marital arts book publishers had much interest about Okinawan karatedo). Wong Kyoshi is primarily responsible for much of the way we teach O'Sensei's curriculum today that has been handed down to us through Hu Sensei, Scott Sensei and Christensen Sensei..
Many of the major dojos that are conected to O'Sensei today are part of Wong Sensei's lineage which include the San Francisco Dojo under Andrew L. Chan (6th Dan, Shihan) and the Ann Arbor Dojo currently under Karl W. Scott, III (5th Dan, Renshi) and formerly under Gary Hu (5th Dan, Renshi) where Barbara Christensen Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi) and Ilene Smoger Sensei (7th Dan Kyoshi) began their Shorin Ryu and Shudokan training.
Shorin Ryu Karatedo and the Okinawan Karate Club of Dallas
Gary Hu Sensei and Karl Scott III Sensei of Ann Arbor, Michigan, were introduced to Shorin Ryu karatedo through Herbert Wong Kyoshi, currently and 8th dan under Shimabukuro O'Sensei. Hu Sensei, Scott Sensei and Barbara Christensen Sensei have been primarily responsible for passing down Shorin Ryu karatedo to Smoger Sensei and our Club. Barbara Christensen Sensei (pictured below), a 7th dan under Shimabukuro O'Sensei and the director of training of the Okinawan Karate Club of Ann Arbor, is Smoger Sensei's primary instructor since the late 70's.
Smoger Sensei began her martial arts training in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1975 with Gary Hu Sensei, who holds the rank of Godan, 5th dan black belt by Shimabukuro O'Sensei and Sandan, 3rd dan black belt, by Isao Ichikawa Sensei and Karl Scott III Sensei, who presently holds the rank of 7th dan black belt in Shudokan Karatedo and 5th dan black belt in Shorin Ryu Karatedo. Hu Sensei and Scott Sensei trained under Herbert Wong Kyoshi, an 8th dan black belt under Shimabukuro O'Sensei. Wong Sensei trained in both the Shudokan and Shobayashi Shorin Ryu systems of Karatedo, Sil-Lum Hung-Gar (Tiger-Crane) Kung Fu, Wing Chun Kung Fu, and a number of internal Chinese martial arts. Christensen Sensei was also a student of Hu Sensei and Scott Sensei.
Barbara Christensen Sensei opened up her own dojo and Smoger Sensei continued her training with Barbara Christensen Sensei from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Smoger Sensei was her very first student. Christensen Sensei, holds the rank of Nanadan 7th dan black belt by Shimabukuro O'Sensei, Yondan, 4th dan black belt, by Todd Sensei and the rank of Shodan, 1st dan black belt, in Aikido. She is also the Chief Instructor of the Okinawan Karate Club of Ann Arbor. (For more information on Christensen Sensei read "Barb Christensen Breaking Barriers (and Boards) in Karate.)
Ilene J. Smoger Sensei, the director of training for the Okinawan Karate Club of Dallas, holds the rank of Nanadan, 7th dan black belt, given to her directly by Shimabukuro O'Sensei in the Shorin Ryu Karate system.
The Club has had the great fortune to train with many great martial artists. Christensen Sensei has instructed at the Club since its inception and visits the Club often. The Club is indebted to her for her supervision and support over the many years of our existence . The Club has also had the great fortune of training with Shimabukuro O'Sensei here in Dallas in 1993 and 1996, where he was assisted by his son Eiko Shimabukuro Hanshi, 10th dan black belt under O'Sensei. OCKD then trained again with O'Sensei in Michigan in 1999 and in North Carolina in 2001 at the North Carolina Pines Dojo (Mary Margaret Graham Sensei). In 2005, the Club trained with O'Sensei at the Michigan Camp. OKCD took 32 students to train under O'Sensei. Smoger Sensei also trained with O'Sensei in Michigan as far back as 1984 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Additionally, several students from OKCD trained with O'Sensei in Okinawa in the fall of 2004. Most recently, OKCD traveled to Connecticut in 2008 where O'Sensei was honored for 60 years of teaching.
Many other Shorin Ryu stylists have visited OCKD. Bill Hayes Kyoshi from Strafford, Virginia, Luis Fernandez Kyoshi from Miami, Florida, and Richard Bonsteel Sensei from North Carolina, have also instructed at the Club. The Club also traveled to Connecticut to train with Bill Funk Sensei and many times to Ann Arbor, Michigan to train at Christensen Sensei's Special Training Camp where Shimabukuro O'Sensei was there twice. Additionally, Carol Reiner Sensei form Durham, North Carolina has visited and supported our Club on numerous occasions. Mark Moeller Sensei from Atlanta, Georgia also has instructed at our Club. In 2004 and other occasions, Sheree Adams Hanshi and Mary Margaret Graham Kyoshi instructed at our Club. We have had a large number of visiting instructors who have given their time and energy to have our Club grow.
As a result of our Club's efforts, Bill Carroll Sensei has a dojo in Grand Prairie, Texas (however no longer affiliated with our dojo), Tim Kelley Sensei has a dojo in Atlanta, Georgia, Michele Elefante Sensei has a dojo in San Francisco and in Sacremento. Wayne Murphy Sensei also has a dojo in Latana, Texas. Paul Klotz Sensei had a dojo in Highland Village, Texas. Eric McGhearty also started a club at Ozark College while he was a student there. Over fifty (61) students have earned the rank of black belt since our Club's inception. Currently, there are twenty six (28) black belts teaching on a regular basis at our Club. Smoger Sensei leads the way for OKCD karateka to train in seminars throughout the country. Now many of the yudansha are teaching seminars throughout the country passing on Shorin Ryu karatedo to others. Our Club has also demonstrated what Shorin Ryu karatedo is around the country. We are continuing to pass on the traditions of karatedo.
Fortunately for our Club, Christensen Sensei, Shimabukuro O'Sensei and his son Eiko Shimabukuro Hanshi, have instructed and continue to instruct at our Club to make sure that are karatedo remains true.
*All Shimabukuro quotes are from
"My Journey With The Grandmaster" by Willam R. Hayes